Problems with neighbours

Published: 30 July 2010

Some people living with HIV have reported being harassed, threatened or physically abused by neighbours and others in their community simply because of their HIV status. This is unacceptable behaviour, and action should be taken immediately.

People living with HIV are protected from harassment under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. This legislation makes unlawful any behaviour, regardless of its intent, which causes another person personal harm or distress, for example by:

  • threatening, abusive or insulting words or disorderly behaviour

  • displaying any writing, sign or other visual representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting.

Where such harassment is taking place, a record of the incident should be made and each separate occurrence reported to the police (and a housing officer if a person is living in local authority or social housing). In cases of serious violence the local authority may be able to offer immediate emergency housing.

Even if the person with HIV feels that nothing is being done, it’s important that each incident is clearly reported. In this way evidence can be built up so local authorities have to take action. Stress can have a serious impact on health – so it’s worth going to the doctor to document any health problems caused or exacerbated by harassment.  

A person’s MP may also be able to advocate on their behalf. Contact details for all local MPs can be found at www.theyworkforyou.com.

In addition, the Equality Act specifically makes it illegal to harass a disabled person, for a reason connected with their disability (such as HIV status). Moreover, local authorities and other public bodies have a duty to take steps to eliminate the harassment of disabled people.

Help from the local authority

If neighbours are being aggressive, then it may be best to also make a complaint direct to the local authority. They should approach the neighbours and attempt to resolve the complaint. If that doesn’t work they may:

  • order an injunction. Injunctions are ordered by a court to stop someone doing something (like playing loud music or abusing a neighbour) or to make them do something (like taking out rubbish). If they break the terms of the injunction they can be arrested.
  • evict them. If a problem neighbour is a local authority tenant, the council may be able to build a case which results in a tenant being evicted for their behaviour.

Sometimes harassment can escalate to a point where a person feels that they are in danger. 999 should be called if there is an immediate threat of violence or abuse.

If the local authority won’t take action you can appeal to the Local Government Ombudsman, who deals with complaints about local authorities or the Housing Ombudsman, who deals with complaints about housing associations or social landlords.

Asking to be rehoused

People who live in local authority housing who are experiencing harassment can request a transfer. The way this is managed differs between different authorities – but in all cases it’s important to supply evidence of the situation. This could include letters from a doctor, support worker, the police or an MP.

This content was checked for accuracy at the time it was written. It may have been superseded by more recent developments. NAM recommends checking whether this is the most current information when making decisions that may affect your health.
Community Consensus Statement on Access to HIV Treatment and its Use for Prevention

Together, we can make it happen

We can end HIV soon if people have equal access to HIV drugs as treatment and as PrEP, and have free choice over whether to take them.

Launched today, the Community Consensus Statement is a basic set of principles aimed at making sure that happens.

The Community Consensus Statement is a joint initiative of AVAC, EATG, MSMGF, GNP+, HIV i-Base, the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, ITPC and NAM/aidsmap
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This content was checked for accuracy at the time it was written. It may have been superseded by more recent developments. NAM recommends checking whether this is the most current information when making decisions that may affect your health.

NAM’s information is intended to support, rather than replace, consultation with a healthcare professional. Talk to your doctor or another member of your healthcare team for advice tailored to your situation.